it's that time of year

espresso, originally uploaded by minato.

It's that time of year again where I've decided to purge my body of all it's sins and go caffeine and alcohol free. Spring is definitely in the air and I'm feeling the need to spring clean "my inner temple". 

So far I'm having no trouble with the wine front, but oh my, this caffeine headache is driving me berk-o. I thought I was going to sail toward caffeine-free nirvana without issue when after 24 hours I was still not feeling anything. Silly me thinking that I could go from 2-3 double espresso 's in Florence to nothing without a squeak. By 9pm last night I had photophobia and such a bad headache that there was nothing else to do but put my sorry soul to bed. Today I coasting along (just) with aspirin. Not sure if replacing caffeine with aspirin is really providing my body with the inner-zen I'm after, but it's at least allowing me to work. I'm desperately hoping that by tomorrow I'll be through the worst. 

Has anyone done this before and remember how long it takes??? I swear it was easier last time.

Italy wrap-up

Just a few more pictures from last weekend.  It was really so, so lovely to get away.  Lots of eating and drinking of Italian red wine.  Matthias and I even managed to find a restaurant in Florence that wasn't completely over-run by tourists, and they did wine tastings and mixed antipasta plates with delicious deli-meats.  They also just happened to serve me a white wine that I loved so much I instantly declared that I needed a bottle to take with me.  It survived the flight home and is now waiting to be drunk on a fine sunny day on our balcony.  It's been hard to get back into the swing of things this week.  I keep getting confused about the day of the week, which is actually a good thing, cos it's Friday already. Yippee!  Love, love, love the short week.


A Poem on Thursday : Blue Skies in Tuscany

Blue Skies in Tuscany
by Hugh David Loxdale

Blue skies in Tuscany,
Distant curving hills,
Cypresses and olive groves...
And flower-strewn rills.

Villas...and oak trees,
Old and evergreen,
Swallowtails that dance the hours;
Small lizards rarely seen.

Lilac and yellow broom...
A splash of brightest hue;
Large, dark metallic bees
That visit swift and true.

Hot Sun...and strong scents;
The grasshopper that rasps its joy...
Amidst the lilting grasses...
That beckon and alloy.

A scene indeed so tranquil,
As if it were but dreams;
Here where the senses mingle...
To prove all is what it seems



Hochzietspiele are a traditional part of German weddings.  Friends of the couple make-up games to 'test' the couple's strength and patience.  I'd never even heard of these games existing before last weekend but they were so much fun to watch.  First-up was cutting the love-heart out using only nail scissors and the second was cutting a piece of wood - old-fashioned symbols of building a life together.  Pretty silly, but so much fun!

the ceremony

Ben and Johanna's wedding was one of the most lovely ceremonies - personal and yet paying tribute to their past.  It was bilingual, which made my heart almost leap out of my chest, and whilst not really religious - combined some lovely Jewish traditions.  They married under a Chuppah, there were seven poems or blessing from family and friends and, of course, the breaking of the wine glass.  They also exchanged some incredibly personal vows.  And the sun shone - no mean feat after 2 days of rain.

Now if you allow myself to indulge in the wedding-fest a little more... next up - Hochzeitspiele!

a tuscan wedding

Back in Berlin after five pretty magical days in Tuscany.  The wedding was so lovely and then Matthias and I had two wonderful days in Siena and Florence.  We both decided that Tuscany was definitely on the list of places we might one day want to live, especially if we could have a huge terrace with lemon trees, endless supplies of fresh mozerella and tomato salad, pasta, red wine and Campari! 


table for two

What do you think?  Makes me laugh but also makes me a little annoyed.  I took this photo in Italy in 2008.  At the time I was single and even though I was travelling with a friend I was a little insulted that this restaurant clearly thought it was only appropriate for 'couples' to enjoy a dinner with a beautiful sunset looking over the Med.  Hmm... Have to say that I still find it odd.  Back tomorrow.


Flying Bach

Last weekend I went to a performance of Flying Bach at the Neuen National Gallerie near Potsdamer Platz.  The Neuen National Gallerie was the perfect space for this really interesting and unique performance.  Urban dance including break-dancing, krumping, popping and rap to Bach.  I was a little skeptical at first, but this was one of the best things I've seen all year.  The artists were so athletic and a lot of thought had been put into tailoring the dance styles to the nuances of the music.  It was really so much fun and attracted such a diverse audience.  It's really what music should be all about - fun..  You can check a bit of it out in the Utube videos below.


tuscan sun

All things going well and no more eruptions from the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano, I should be here tonight, Gargonza Italy.  Ben and Johanna are getting married in this old castle on Saturday evening.  My imagination has been running wild for weeks - spring, tuscany, medieval castle, sunset - it has all the ingredients for a gorgeous and very romantic celebration.  After the wedding Matthias and I are planning on taking a mini-break in Florence where I have equally elaborate plans - cobbled stones alleys, gelati, the Ponte Vecchio, summer dresses and, of course, David and the Ufizzi.

Posting will probably be light-on this week.  Have a lovely weekend!


A Poem on Thursday

The Beauty of Death XIV by Khalil Gibran 
Part One - The Calling (abridged)

Let me sleep, for my soul is intoxicated with love and
Let me rest, for my spirit has had its bounty of days and nights;
Light the candles and burn the incense around my bed, and
Scatter leaves of jasmine and roses over my body;
Embalm my hair with frankincense and sprinkle my feet with perfume,
And read what the hand of Death has written on my forehead.

Dry your tears, my friends, and raise your heads as the flowers
Raise their crowns to greet the dawn.
Look at the bride of Death standing like a column of light
Between my bed and the infinite;
Hold your breath and listen with me to the beckoning rustle of
Her white wings.

Come close and bid me farewell; touch my eyes with smiling lips.
Let the children grasp my hands with soft and rosy fingers;
Let the ages place their veined hands upon my head and bless me;
Let the virgins come close and see the shadow of God in my eyes,
And hear the echo of His will racing with my breath. 

Yesterday I learned that a friend from my time studying in Boston drowned during a flash-flood in Djibouti.  He was working with MSF (doctors without borders) assessing the impact of TB, HIV and malnutrition amongst children in rural Djibouti.  Bala was an amazing man, with few pretentions. His loss to the international public health and TB-communities will be deeply felt.  The loss for his friends and family will be greater.  I can think of nothing else to say, except that he will be missed.  Terribly.


sauna (an update)

**This photo has nothing to do with the post, but I like it.  
I think Campari is going to be my summer drink

So, about the Sauna.  I decided to embrace it and go.  Mostly I just realised that I liked sauna and it was really the only thing that made me toasty and warm in winter.  But, I also discovered that I found unisex sauna no more intimidating that the girls change room.

Surprised?  I was surprised too.  But I really have found the gym change rooms hard to get used to.  By the time I was 12 years old I had mastered the technique of dressing and undressing in a change room without actually being naked.  I thought this was how everyone did it.  Well, as my sister said, in comparison to Australian women, German women like to be naked.  The change rooms at gym are full of naked women.  And I'm not talking about a quick 'naked while you change outfits' naked, but a prolonged 'walk around the change room and have a conversation naked'.  The showers are in a communal 'wet room' and towels are left outside in the dry area.  It is not uncommon to see people blow-drying their hair whilst at least partially starkers (top/bottom, take your pick).

I have found this cultural difference quite intimidating and unsettling.  I have had to face what turns out to quite big, but thankfully not insurmountable, fears about my own naked body.  I have also realised that I have some strange preconceptions about what the female body is supposed to look like (thanks Hollywood!) and in an earth-shattering "uh-duh" moment realised that there is no normal, or for that matter, abnormal body shape.  By the way, everyone looks, and you're naive in you think they/you don't.  Anyway, suffice to say I discovered that I have no more anxiety going into the unisex sauna than I do entering the female showers.  I also discovered that a fifteen minute sauna is perfect meditation time and an antidote to anger and stress.  I like sauna and this, I have decided, is all that matters.

PS.  In a slightly related topic I started my life-drawing class last night.  So awesome!


crafting mojo

I'm not sure what it is about having the house to myself, but it seems to kick-start my crafting mojo.  Maybe it's because I can spread my stuff out of the whole living room, moving between different projects as my inspiration and energy shifts.  

I've started my kitchen blackboard.  I bought the paint ages ago, but couldn't decide on an appropriate "something" to paint.  Last week I spotted 'somewhere' in the blog universe the idea of round canvases, which I thought was a great idea but wasn't sure where to get a round canvas.  But fate helped me on this one and I literally tripped over the stack of round canvases out the craft shop yesterday looking for something else.  Clumsy does have it's uses sometimes.  The blackboard is now happily drying on the balcony waiting for a third coat.  I have high hopes for this project.  Think it's going to be a winner.

And then I cast on for another knitting project and blocked a third.  Plus I'm absolutely smitten with my new photo workshop "Photoshop the Skinny" from Kim Klassen Designs.  

If only I didn't need to work I could do this all day...



I love KaDeWe.  Really.  The best food shopping ever.  I've talked before about how much I love this place.  It's probably a good thing that it's on the other side of the city as it has so much yummy food.  Matthias' parents were visiting this weekend and we spent a lovely few hours walking around and buying food for a picnic dinner and dreaming about all the delicious food we could buy.  As well as yummy, smelly cheese for dinner we also bought some delicious sea salt and mustard to keep us going until the next visit.


potholder swap 2010 : new homes

My potholders have a arrived and their destinations!  I know most of you are probably not remotely interested in this, but I can't help feeling a wee bit proud of that all five potholders are now scattered around the US.  Here and here you can see them just before I sent them on their merry-way. This was my first swap and although I didn't really fall in love with crochet, I did fall in love with the concept of making and swapping stuff.  Now I just need to wait for the Postie to bring me my new potholders.
Potholder #1 : Heather from Massachusetts
Potholder #2 : Sally from Thomasburo, Illanois
Potholder #3 : Anne from Washington, Columbia
Potholder #4 : Cindy from Fort Worth, Texas
Potholder #5, Victoria from Berlin, Germany
Yep, Potholder No.5 travelled all the way to the US only to fly back home again (or very close too).


C&C Assignment IV : Light and Abstract

Last assignment of the workshop.   I had great fun participating in this and it taught me a lot about me as a photographer and pushed me to experiment with my camera in ways that I hadn't before.  Hopefully some of the skills that I've learnt will carry through into the future.  A big thanks to Camilla and Carolyn who organised the workshop and to all the other participants for regularly stopping by and commenting on my assignments.

This week's challenge was light and abstract in nature.  With a limit of 6-7 photos we were to play with light, abstraction, reflection, close-ups and landscape.  I live in central Berlin where five story apartments line the streets and nature is more often bought at a florist than found outside.  Friedrichshain Volkspark is just around the corner and for this week I was interested in playing with the connection and contrast between man-made and nature at the park.  It was actually easier than I thought.  People and landscaped elements of the park kept popping up in all of my pictures, inspite of attempts to blur them out, or omit them from view.

A last word about things that I've learnt.  I've grown more confident moving away from automatic settings to playing regularly with the aperture and f/stop.  I still haven't quite learnt how much I can push it before I get terrible camera shake, but I'm quickly learning.  Next step - full manual mode.  Throughout the assignments I've really tried to concentrate on colour and white balance.  I still have a great deal to learn, but the beginning 'egg' assignment was good preparation.  I find people difficult to photograph and I think I need more practice with this to create portrait shots that are not just "happy snaps".



I'm having a bit of an organisational dilemma at the moment.  I don't know how or where to store my jewellery.  Embarrassingly at the moment it's being stored in a couple of old "freebie" toiletry bags you get with perfumes at Christmas on our bedside window.  It looks really ugly.  Everyday I look at it and think - I must do something about that.  But I don't. 

I want it to look neat, but I also want to be able to see it.  I have a tendency to 'forget' about things I own if I can't see them (out of sight out of mind).  It would also be great if it could be a bit of a 'feature' that way I'm much more likely to keep it tidy.  I love the idea of the first picture frame / pin board, but I'm not sure how practical it is.  I also think the idea of using lace to hang your earings is fantastic.  Not sure if I'd be able to pull this all together though, it would require some major 'crafting' that I'm not sure if I'm quite ready for.  Does anyone have any suggestions?